Saturday, May 30, 2009

Super Scrumpdiliumptious Strawberry Shortcake – It's Gluten Free, too

Have the glorious days of summer hit your neck of the woods? I know that it’s still springtime for us Northern Hemisphere folks, but it feels like summer! Picture me doing a happy dance! After enduring month after month of having to drive with my windshield wipers permanently in the “on” position and shrouding myself with jackets, I am now sporting sunglasses and slathering on sunscreen. Yep, I’m a happy gal. Again, picture me doing a happy dance.

Here’s a recipe that will make you and yours dance happy, too! I’m talking about the shortcake component of strawberry shortcake. Oh, folks, you are gonna love me! Yep, I’m that confident. You will love me! Well, at least I’m certain that you’ll love this shortcake! It’s soooo easy and each bite is a delight sensation. Best of all, it’s gluten free. Bestest of all (yes, I know ‘bestest’ is not a word, but when I get really happy I like to make up words. Did you see the title of this post? I was really happy when I wrote that!), is that it doesn’t require any unusual ingredients. Truly! I’m not kidding! Take a quick peak at the ingredient list. I bet you have every single ingredient just waiting in your pantry for this dessert!

I found this recipe on line at RecipeZaar and just had a feeling that it would be awesome! Perfect timing, too, as this worked marvelously as my gluten-free babe’s birthday treat. Let me point out that this is a spongecake style recipe. These are similar to those little shortcake sponge cakes that are sold in grocery stores, only these taste way better. Made in cupcake muffin tins, they provide individual servings that look so pretty on a dessert plate.

Here we go!

½ cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar (also called confectioners or icing sugar)
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup corn starch
1-1/4 teaspoons baking POWDER

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 12 – 15 -muffin pan. In a large bowl cream butter and sugar, using electric mixer. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat until light and fluffy. In another bowl, mix the cornstarch and baking powder together and add slowly to the creamed mixture. Add slowly to keep it from powdering your entire kitchen. Mix for only about a minute or two until well blended.Fill the greased muffin tins half full. I filled mine more than half full because I only have 12 muffin tins. Actually, I used two 6 tins. Anyway ... Bake for 15 minutes.Test with a toothpick, after 15 minutes, even if the top looks shiny. Can you see my little toothpick hole smack dab in the center there? It came out perfectly clean. Remove the shortcakes from the pan while still warm. I coaxed mine out with a fork. They will look like little cupcakes, but taste just like little spongecakes/shortcakes.Ain’t she sweet? Looks like a little cupcake, but tastes like spongecake!Serve topped with strawberries and whipped cream. I had blueberries to add as well, but the kidlins were hovering. It was all I could do to snap a quick photo.Just look at this fine crumb! (Uh, please excuse the, uh, cottoncandy nail polish. Yes, I do let my just-turned-10-year-old paint my nails. Hey, it’s a mom and little girl thing. I’ve even let her do my hair and make up, but that’s a post for another day.) Back to the crumb ... so light and very spongy! Click on the photo if you want a closer look!

If you wanted, you could slice these in half and serve them open faced. I like the vertical presentation, but the split version is easier for the kidlins. These little babies will be gobbled up by you and yours in no time! So, go ahead and whip up a quick batch of these gluten free darlings and join me in a happy dance!

Do you have a favorite shortcake recipe? Any fun stories to go with it? Would love to hear about it!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dancing Taste Buds --- Crescent Roll Appetizer Pizza!

What a whirlwind of a week! We had a wonderful trifecta going on here ... my baby celebrated her crossover into double digits -- 10th birthday (yikes!), out of town guests arrived in honor of said birthday girl, and gleaming beams of sunshine warmed our faces! Rolls of laughter and streams of happy tears were part of the picture perfect goings-on. It’s been a while since I laughed so heartily that I cried. Felt really good. Have to do that more often.Since I was preparing food for a crowd (made me think about Marjie), I thought it would be fun to experiment with some one pan meals. Years ago I had a version of today’s recipe as a vegetarian appetizer. So, I thought to myself, why not turn it into a brunch meal by tossing on some meat and serving larger portions. It was a hit with my guests. All the grown ups devoured it. The kids didn’t touch it; I think my son may have even wrinkled his nose. Of course the beast had no problem sneaking bites of salami as I was prepping this meal, and the girls kept snagging cucumber slices. Does your family do that? Swipe bits of this and that as you are cooking? Still it was no biggie as I had plenty of food, and planned something else for them as this is not a gluten free meal anyway. I'm working on a gluten free version of it.Have you seen this recipe before? It’s been featured in those mini magazines they sell at the check out line at the grocery store. Made with Pillsbury crescent roll dough and cream cheese, it couldn’t be easier. I tossed on some leftover grilled chicken plus some cubed salami, and the result made my taste buds dance. If you want dancing taste buds, check this out. Soon.


2 cans Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (I used the low fat ones)
1 brick cream cheese – softened
½ cup sour cream
¼ teaspoon dill
¼ teaspoon garlic powder

RAW veggies: 1 cup chopped fresh broccoli, ½ of a red pepper, 1 carrot shredded, ½ of a cucumber, seeded, and 3 green onions, sliced thin.

1 cup diced leftover grilled chicken, warmed up
1 cup diced thick salami

Preheat your oven to 375. Spread the crescent dough out onto a large, non stick sheet pan, pressing the seams together to form one large flat sheet of dough. Bake for 10 minutes, or until just lightly golden. Remove from over and let cool.

Meanwhile, combine the softened cream cheese and the sour cream until smooth. Stir in the dill and garlic powder. Spread onto the cooled crescent dough. Top with veggies and meat. Cut into squares and serve immediately. (Be careful cutting on a non stick pan.) This can also be put in the fridge a day early and served cold.Just look at this! It was soooo good. This little meal is bursting with texture ... crunchy veg, creamy spread, chewy crust, and flavorful meat. I just loved every bite. This would be great as an appetizer for summer potlucks as well as a great brunch dish. Totally yummy! Go ahead, try it and let your taste buds dance!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Garden Tuesdays - Eco Friendly Weed Killing: The Student Becomes The Teacher!

Welcome to Garden Tuesday at It’s All Gouda! How was your Memorial Day weekend? Were you able to get out and enjoy some sunshine? Hope so. I'm posting this tip a little early because I have out of town guests. Plus, I'm so excited to share today's topic!

Today’s garden installment deals with that timeless struggle of man vs. nature. I’m talking about weeds. I learned something new about killing weeds this week, only to find out that it’s not new at all! Here’s the story. My 7th grade daughter, along with two classmates, wrote an eco friendly article for their school newsletter on “green” tips. I particularly enjoyed the article, as I know she had fun writing it. Within her article, however, was a bit about killing weeds with boiling water. It was identified as a non-chemical approach, and mentioned to be found particularly helpful in instances where pulling weeds is not very successful such as for those buggers that find their way into cracked sidewalks, patios, and driveways. Naturally, in order to be eco friendly, it was recommended to use water left over from cooking, such as when boiling pasta, etc.

I told my eco-friendly child that I had not heard of the boiling water method before. She responded that it was true and very effective. I retorted that I didn’t say it wasn’t true, just that I had not heard of it before. Okay, now I’m not snotty, but I’m sure my face showed that I was skeptical.

So, the very next day while said child was at school, I researched killing weeds with boiling water. Oh. My. Gosh! What planet have I been on? This method has been around since Cro-Magnon times. Well, maybe not that long, but since pioneer times anyway! According to my research (don’t I sound like Dorothy Ann from Magic School Bus?), this method is very effective at killing weeds, especially stubborn ones, because it essential cooks the invader all the way down through the roots. Even better, it totally destroys any seeds or spores just waiting to create replicas all over creation. Ah, my smart little girl. So the tables have officially turned. Now the student becomes the teacher!

I decided to put it to the test, cuz, well, I'm a hands on kinda girl. There were a couple weeds in my garden bed that were willing subjects.Ah, those weeds have been laughing at me. Laughing, I tell you!! Until a couple days ago, the weather here has been perfect for weed propagation. I needed to get the garden beds completely ready (I did this weekend) which meant lots of weed pulling. Anywho ... my point is that I tested this in my garden beds. I have to say that I don’t think this method is wise to use for killing weeds in large spaces like gardens for a variety of reasons (wasteful of water resource, could adversely sterilize your soil, etc.); however, for my little test, it worked great. Join me now as we eradicate two weed invaders. I boiled not quite 2 cups of water in a measuring cup that has a nice spout on it.I poured about a ½ cup or so of water on the invaders, making sure I poured it on all the leaves as well as a direct hit on the stem/root area.It smelled like I was cooking spinach. Then I went about my chores.Two hours later I came back and this is the sight that greeted me. Who's laughing now weeds?

The next day I weeded my entire garden by hand. Actually, it ended up being a pretty easy job because my square foot garden soil is still surprisingly loose and fluffy. This is year two for this garden, and I’m so pleased with my soil. I decided to give it a boost mixing in some compost, and it was such a breeze to work in. Since you never, ever walk on the soil in the square foot garden, it never gets compacted. But this post is about eco friendly weeding, so I’ll get back to that now. Those two weeds that I, um, watered, were completely annihilated, roots and all.

So, for those of you who don’t want to use Round Up on your patio or sidewalks or driveways, hit the little invaders with a dash of boiling water. Problem solved. Do you have any garden/yard tips that you've just learned?I can’t wait to show you what’s going on in the rest of the garden. Tune in next week, as I’ll update you on the garbage can potatoes (they are doing AWESOME), as well as the rest of the goodies that I planted. Tomatoes, cukes, and peppers are well established, and the beans, peas, beets, carrots, radishes, lettuces, and herbs have been sown.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Yummilicious Fudgilicous! Back to Basics Chocolate Fudge

A full year has passed since my littlest eater transitioned to a gluten free diet. A year free of food related tummy aches, a year without tummy medicine, and a year of new recipes. Like many folks these days, we are knee deep in a "back to basics" type of lifestyle.

Since wheat products are no longer part of our daily repertoire, I had to reinvent old standby recipes as well as learn new ones, particularly when it came to treats. Chocolate chip cookies are no longer part of our diet; however, chocolate fudge has become a mainstay. A year ago, I had to hunt down recipes and learn about making fudge. Today, I can make fudge blindfolded ... in my sleep ... with one hand tied behind my back.

Fudge making is soooooo easy, and the results are sooooo good. Best of all, fudge is very basic, versatile, and forgiving. All you need is about 8 minutes, and you are good to go. Chocolate fudge is one of my kids favorite things on the planet, and the little squares of goodness are great for packing in lunches, savoring for dessert, or sharing at a potluck. Do you ever find that you have a couple of opened bags of chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, mini-marshmallows, or nuts hanging around? If you answered yes, consider making an easy-peasy batch of fudge.

Here’s a basic recipe. Prepare to be impressed with the extensive ingredient list:

3 cups chocolate chips (semi sweet, milk, butterscotch ... any combo will work)
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

That’s it folks. That’s all you need to whip up an 8 x 8 pan of fudgiliciousness. Of course, you can add all sorts of yummy things like a ¼ cup of walnuts, peanuts, or even pine nuts to the mix. Feel like making rocky road fudge? Add a ½ cup of mini marshmallows and some nuts to the finished product. You can make a separate batch using peanut butter chips and swirl it into a chocolate batch. Add a handful of dried cranberries and have folks try to guess the secret ingredient! For those who like to live on the wild side, you know who you are, you could even add a ½ teaspoon of cayenne and a little cinnamon to the basic recipe to create a rock your socks off spicy fudge!

Here’s how to make the basic recipe:

Line an 8 x 8 pan with wax paper. In a heavy saucepan, preferably non stick, heat the condensed milk and chips together over med-low heat, stirring almost constantly until melted. I like stirring with a wooden spoon. I love my wooden spoon. About a minute after all the chips have melted, the mixture will take on a shiny hue. When that happens, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Add any extras like nuts at this point.
Pour the entire mixture into the prepared pan. Use the spoon to press the mixture into the pan and even out the thickness (the mixture will be thick and slightly sticky).Excuse me for a moment while I lick the spoon. Aw come on, doesn’t everybody like to lick the spoon? Actually, I rotate letting my kids lick the spoon. Ahem. Back to the fudge ... Let cool slightly, and then cover with plastic wrap pressing the wrap down on top of the fudge. Put in the fridge until cold and firm. Remove from the fridge and pan, and cut into small squares. Prepare for the stampede of fudge craving maniacs to swipe every piece. Smile as your ears are greeted with yummy noises. Ah, I’ve done my part to make the world a little better place. Personally I think chocolate fudge would help bring about world peace. Yeah, it’s that good.My kids prefer it plain. Hubbyman will eat it in any shape or form. This batch was made with semi sweet chips, a handful of butterscotch chips, and some walnuts. So, what's your favorite type of yummilicious fudgilicous?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Garden Tuesday - Garbage Can Potatoes!

Welcome to Garden Tuesday at It’s All Gouda. Do you enjoy Greek Mythology? As a youngster, I was enraptured with those larger than life stories. I clearly remember the first time I turned the pages of the story about Persephone and Demeter, and how their personal joys and sorrows caused the seasons. I was totally swept up in Demeter’s overwhelming sorrow due to being separated from her daughter Persephone, which resulted in the cold and dreary months of winter. I rejoiced along with her when Demeter’s sorrow transforms to joy as she is reunited with her daughter for a few short months each year, and the glorious days of summer return to the land.

Well, those of us who reside in the Pacific Northwest are quite familiar with Demeter’s tears for a good portion of the year. But all is not lost. The warm rays of summer’s sun have been blessing my little part of the universe lately, and just like Demeter, my mood has brightened considerably.

Today’s post is actually a tutorial of sorts. (For you homeschoolers out there, this is a great garden project. It works well for any age group.) Years ago when my teenage kidlin’s were wee tots, I read an article in Family Fun magazine about how to grow potatoes in a garbage can. and I was immediately intrigued. I mean how cool would it be to tell your family and neighbors that the potatoes they were eating were grown in such an unusual vessel? Well, to my surprise, a friend of mine actually saw the same article and gave it a go. She’s a very successful gardener, and really raved about this method. This is a great method to produce a very large yield. I tucked this away in my memory banks as something to try.

Fast forward to this past weekend, when I was getting ready to plant my potatoes. I’ve been holding onto these spuds for a while as I particularly liked them and wanted to grow them myself from this particular bunch. It’s been far to wet to plant them until now, so you’ll notice that they’ve sprouted WAY BEYOND what is normally planted. Plus, I usually cut the potatoes up and just plant pieces of them, making sure each piece has a spouted eye on it. Still, these overly zealous sprouted potatoes were in great shape so ... waste not, want not.

Here’s what you need:

1 large plastic garbage can (I used a 20 gallon one which is on the small size. Feel free to go bigger)
Drill for making drainage holes in can
Garden fabric or large rocks, pieces of pottery etc. for blocking draining holes
Gardening Soil – lots
Potatoes that have sprouted. (remember: you can cut the potatoes in half or thirds before planting making sure each piece has a sprouted bit on it)

Let's begin. Gather your kidlin's and let this be their project!Turn your garbage can upside down. Using a power drill, cut out drainage holes in the bottom of your can. Hubbyman did this for me. These holes are small, and so he positioned nine small holes as shown.Next, you’ll need to cover the holes to keep the dirt from coming out just as you would for a potted plant.I choose to use yard fabric, but large stones or pieces of broken pottery would work just fine. Use what you’ve got.

Now dump in about 12” of gardening soil into the bottom of your can, breaking up any large clumps.Place your sprouted potato pieces on the dirt as shown.Cover with about 4” give or take, with additional soil.

Pick out a good book to read and wait for the plants to grow. In fact, you may want to pick out several books. Or take up a new hobby. Or build a deck. Or paint your house ... inside and out.

Ahem. The point is that it will take your plants a few weeks to make an appearance. Once they are about 6” tall or so, add about 3 more inches of soil covering up the leaves and everything on the bottom ½ of the plant. Repeat this process throughout the growing season until the can is almost full. Oh, and be sure to water your garbage can potatoes just as you would the rest of your garden. At the end of the growing season, dig out your potatoes, and wow your family and friends with your tale of the potatoes ala garbage can!

This is a great project for kids. It’s also perfect for those who are new to gardening or who perhaps don’t have a lot of space to grow potatoes in their yard. It’s perfect for patio gardeners, too. Like I mentioned earlier, it will produce a high yield without taking up a lot of space. Best of all, it doesn’t require a lot of hard work at all.Unlike this octo-legged fellow who’s working quite hard on its web.

So what do you think? Care to give garbage can potatoes a try?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Super Stuffed Peppers ... On The Grill!!!

Happy Saturday greetings to you all! Guess what? Guess what? That magnificent solar orb in the sky is blazing bright today over the Pacific Northwest. Not only that, it’s hot, hot, hot!

As such, today’s weather called for an equally dazzling meal. Check out these gluten free babies. I made stuffed peppers on the grill. Not just any ole stuffed peppers ... these babies are overstuffed with all sorts of Mexican style goodies. I’ve actually made gluten free stuffed peppers twice in the past couple of weeks. The first time I made them using ground chicken for the meat portion and I cooked them in the oven. They were terrific. Today, however, I used ground beef and made them on the grill. Grill trumps oven, hands down. One of the secrets that makes this so yummilicious is the cubed cheese in the filling. It makes the most delicious pockets of gooey yumminess! Mmm, mmm, good. Let's begin!These super stuffed peppers are so easy to assembly. I used up bits of this and that that I had handy, and my oh my did hubbyman love these.

Super stuffed peppers on the grill

1 lb ground beef
4 peppers halved and seeded (I used red, green, yellow, and orange peppers)
1 cup or so of leftover cooked rice, cold
¾ cup black beans, rinsed
¾ cup corn
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 cup cubed mont. jack cheese or mozzarella cheese
1 egg beaten with a couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons green salsa
2 tablespoons red salsa (can substitute tomato sauce)
Seasoned Salt
Black Pepper
Mexican Oregano
Chili powder

Preheat your grill to 400 degrees. Partially fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil. Remove from the burner, drop in your pepper halves, and let sit in the hot water for about 3-5 minutes. Remove and drain.

Meanwhile, combine all the other ingredients. Place peppers in a tall sided aluminum pan. I used two pans placing 4 halves in each pan. Over stuff each pepper making sure to fill the pepper cavity completely. The filling shrinks during cooking.

Place a double sheet of aluminum foil on the grill, and put your pan(s) on top of the foil. Pour about ½ cup of hot water into each pan. Close the lid and grill for 50 minutes.

Couple of notes: Placing the peppers in the boiling water for just a couple of minutes prior to stuffing really makes a difference. You know how sometimes the pepper remains too crunchy? Well, this precooking bath really eliminates that. Be careful, though, not to let them sit too long or they’ll be too soft.See what I mean by overstuffed? Yeeowza! Serve with additional salsa, shredded cheese (I used cotija), and avocado. Prepare to hear yummy noises. Oh, and like most recipes here at It's All Gouda, this is gluten free, all the way, baby!

My only regret with these is that Marjie is allergic to peppers. I wonder what other veggies take well to stuffings like this? Any ideas? What’s your favorite stuffed pepper recipe?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Garden Tuesday!

Welcome to Garden Tuesday at It’s All Gouda! The sun made an appearance over the weekend here in the good ol’ Pacific Northwest, and as you can see in the above photo, the yard is really starting to explode with growth and color. Let’s take a look ....The mammoth sized rhododendrons buds that I showed you last week are just starting to open. The bees are ritually dancing around these bushes as if trying to coax the flowers to open.These red blooms look rather alien now, but will burst into riotous red color in just a day or so.Ah, here we have the bane of my husband’s existence. My husband does not want dandelions in his yard. To me, grass is to be played upon so what does it matter, but he likes his yard to be green and only green. I suspect a tug of war between man and nature ‘til the end of time on that one.I love noble fir trees. I love their sturdy branches with their thick, short needles. Can you see the little pine cone starting to form on the end? Compared to other evergreen trees, Noble Firs are not super fast growers. Even so, this tree towers over our back yard. On more than one occasion in years past, we purchased live noble fir trees to use as our Christmas tree. Once the holiday season concluded, the trees were then planted in our yard. This is one of those trees. The sentimental value of it is off the charts to me.

Do you have any plants, trees, or bushes that have sentimental meaning for you in your yard?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Masked Bandits

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, that, my friends, is a raccoon on my roof!

"Mom, there's a raccoon in our yard!", hollered my son through the screen door. Now, this may not be a big deal to many of you, but for those of us who live in the concrete jungle, this is notable news. Raccoons are common enough creatures here in suburbia, but they usually are not quite so bold. It's very unusual to see a raccoon before dark around here and even more alarming that this raccoon was not even slightly afraid of my kids playing 6 feet away. Noisy kids. Running around kids. Throwing balls and stuff kids. I had a flashback to the movie "Elf" where a flying fur raccoon doesn't give Buddy the type of greeting he was expecting. (Funny movie full of sophomoric humor, but still good for mindless entertainment.)Look right in the enter of the photo. See those glowing eyes? He's climbing up my roof. Click on the photo to enlarge it for a better view. (Side note: didn't my husband build an attractive fence?)

Back to the masked bandit in my yard ... this particular raccoon has a tree nest in my neighbors yard. For some reason, though, he likes to come and, um, use my roof as a latrine. I'm not amused. This has happened on and off for years, and let me tell you the stench wafting into the house (namely the master bedroom) is memorable. In years past, we've had the "experts" come trap/release them, but it costs a fortune. Plus, the raccoons in these parts are enormous. I mean HUGH beasties. HUGH, I say, HUGE! For getting rid of today's masked bandit, hubbyman came outside and launched a football at it to get it away from the kids (our hose isn't hooked up yet).Look right in the center of the photograph in the small roof section. Click to enlarge it for a better view. It scurried up onto the roof which is where I took the following photos. (I was a big help. Of course, I kept having guilty thoughts while thinking of the film Pom Poko. It's a Japanese anime film about how the raccoons are displaced out of their habitat. But then I remembered the stench in my house, and I got over it.) I'm sure the masked bandit will be back. UGH!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Garden Tuesday

Welcome to Garden Tuesday at It’s All Gouda. I could aptly call this Soggy Tuesday, as the Pacific Northwest is continuing to experience what I lament as biblical proportion rainfall. Despite the wet, wet, wet, the yard is full of springtime activity. Grab your raincoat, and let’s take a look, shall we ...The azaleas are just starting to tease us with some color. I suspect that by this time next week, they’ll be in full bloom.Remember the flowers on the strawberries last week? Those little lovelies have morphed into the first teeny tiny strawberries starts. Ah, what’s tiny and green this week, will be gorgeous and red in just a few weeks. YUM. My plants are LOADED with future bowls of strawberry shortcake.What's up, Doc? These carrots are almost ready to harvest. Can’t wait for these. YUMThe Greek Oregano is just gorgeous. Doesn’t it look like these leaves are talking to you? I hope to learn how to dry my own oregano this year. Any suggestions?This is a pitiful photo, but the purpose is to show how fast rhodendrons grow in this climate. This plant averages over 14 inches of growth per year, actually about 2 feet per year. About 3 years ago I whacked this down to its trunk (which earned me a lecture from the hubby). I assured him that no, I had not killed the plant and that it would be in full bloom by spring the next year. Guess I was right. Paula: 1 , hubby 0. hehe This puppy is now over 7 feet tall ... again.It sports a sea of soon to be red and violet blooms. Now ... where are hubby’s hedge clippers? Oh, just kidding. Maybe. hehe

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Rock Your World - Key Lime & White Chocolate Cheesecake with Pistachio Crust

For those of you who follow my blog, you may be surprised to see a dessert posted here. You’ll note that I never said I don’t know how to make desserts; it’s just that I’m not a big dessert maker/eater. Plus, since the youngest member of the family can’t have wheat, desserts in my house usually boast sliced fruit or some such thing.

However ...

Youngest member deserves a huge “shout out”. You see, my petite 9 year old bambino auditioned for and then performed in the school talent show this week. There were about a dozen “acts” that performed including unbelievably talented piano solos and duets, Irish dancing, tap dancing, team dancing, and lots of singers. My little gal just wanted to sing. Unlike some of the other kids performing, she doesn’t take singing lessons or anything like that. She just wanted to give it a shot. Kind of like her version of American Idol. So, up she went in front of the student council, other performers, and the vice principal to audition. Oh the guts it took to do that, especially since she was getting over a bad sinus infection, and her voice was very weak and Elmer Fuddish. To her delight, she found out the next day that she got the thumbs up to perform at the talent show to be held the next week.The day of the big event, my hubby and I as well as my son decided that we would go and show our support for her. I admit I was a tad anxious about her performing because my little miss has been dealing with some anxiety issues this year. She’s loads better, but being the mom I am, let's just say that my protective radar was up and running. The talent show was held in the community center with the entire student body in attendance, as well as all the teachers and staff, plus parents. It was packed ... standing room only ... with about 350 people there. So, they introduce her and she walks up to the stage area and stands before the microphone. Despite all the people there, it was perfectly quiet. As soon as she began singing, I could see everyone’s jaw drop open in amazement. All the other singers sang along with prerecorded music or the actual cd from the original artist or at the very least with a piano accompaniment. My little gal performed a cappella. She totally ROCKED the house down. No one expected that rockin’ voice to come out of that tiny package, especially those who had been at the audition when she was still getting over her cold and you could hardly hear her. She sang the song, “Girl Put Your Records On” by Corinne Bailey Rae.At the end, the crowd roared their appreciation with clapping and hooting, and gave her a standing ovation. She was the only performer to get one. I, of course, had happy tears and kept getting hugs from parents and teachers who came up to offer congratulations. Ah, it was a very proud parent moment. Later that night, when we were having our end of day snuggle time, I was telling her how proud I was that she followed her heart, took a chance and did something new. She confided that there were two older girls at the audition who snickered at her cold-affected voice when she was auditioning. She said that those same two girls were dancing in their seats when she sang at the actual show. I told her how persevering and being brave doesn’t mean that it’s easy but rather it means that you keep going even when it’s tough. Having two older kids snicker at you would intimidate most kids, and how immensely proud I am that she didn’t let them rain on her parade. Way to be the change, baby girl. This will be a great memory that she’ll hold onto forever. Not bad for a little gal who uses a hairbrush for a microphone!

So, in honor of her awesome debut, I figured she deserved a yummy dessert, gluten free of course. I remember seeing this recipe in a National Parks Cookbook, and it fit the bill perfectly.The pistachio crust is AWESOME. It’s salty, sweet, and crunchy. The cheesecake ... no bake I might add ... is both tart and sweet. We served it with additional whipped cream and strawberries. AWESOME!Key Lime & White Chocolate Cheesecake with Pistachio Crust (Adapted from the recipe served at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Nat’l Park)

2 cups shelled pistachios
2/3 heaping cup of sugar
¼ heaping cup melted butter, more if needed

1-1/2 cups heavy cream, whipped into medium peaks
1- ½ 8 oz bricks cream cheese, softened
6-1/2 oz white chocolate, melted (I used Giradellli chips)
6 tablespoons Key lime juice
1 packet gelatin (I used Knox)
1 tablespoon water

Finely grind the pistachios and sugar in a food processor. Add the melted butter and process briefly. Mixture should hold its shape. If not, add more melted butter. Press firmly into the bottom of a springform pan. NOTE: I used juice glasses and a pie plate.

In a clean food processor bowl, combine cream cheese and sugar. Pour in the melted white chocolate and combine. Scrape the bowl and mix again.In a small bowl, combine the gelatin and water. Stir to soften. It will clump up fairly quickly. In a heavy weight sauce pan or a double boiler, combine the lime juice and gelatin, and stir until gelatin completely melts. I did it in a very heavy small sauce pan on low heat. Cool slightly and add to the cream cheese mixture. I did it by pulsing a couple of times. Next, add the whipped cream mixture and pulse until just combined. Pour into the crust and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Serve with additional whipped cream and fruit.So, to all those kids out there who are following their heart, taking chances, and making their dreams come true, this dessert is for you. It'll rock your world!